The One Thing Every Business Owner Should Be Worrying About
You started a company. You found some success. You decided to expand slowly. You began making investments to scale systems. At some point, you realize you can't oversee everything. New employees are getting hired before you can meet them (and approve of them). The business scaled before you were fully ready. It's tempting for overwhelmed business leaders to work on systems first: payroll, inventory, sales operations. Those systems are easy to control. They offer clear ROI, and systems never push back against your ideas. But, the systems aren't necessarily what's keeping you awake at night. Leaders seem most concerned that the culture they've built will be diluted without their full attention on managing it into the future. CULTURE EATS STRATEGY FOR BREAKFAST Our good friend, Horst Schulze, who founded and successfully scaled The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, often quotes Peter Drucker's famous line: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Culture is spoken and unspoken behaviors, social norms, values, ways of making decisions, ethos, and all of the intangibles that create the unique spirit of your business. Because culture is so hard to pin down, most business owners focus on the more easily-measured systems to scale first. While the efficiencies create more growth velocity, there becomes a need to hire more people. And for the first time, business owners begin to lose touch with who is working in their business. They lose the ability to train employees themselves. While training, onboarding, and people development remain in-sourced by trusted managers, it's still being outsourced from you. THE RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL COMPANY Starting in one fledgling hotel in New England, Horst Schulze had a dream to create a world-class brand; an escape for business and personal travelers seeking some respite from the average hotel options being offered. The success he found was immense. Horst realized that he wouldn't be able to be in every employee conversation in every hotel training or meeting. So, Horst began to document the most important aspects of the Ritz-Carlton culture. Horst created a credo card that clearly outlined the vision, mission, and purpose. He leveraged a personality assessment company to create job role benchmarks to help managers more scientifically match candidates with the needs of the hotel's open positions. He created rigorous standards for onboarding new-hires through a well-scripted, high-impact first day experience, which he exclaims is the most emotional moment of an employee's career. Horst was masterful at imparting the Ritz-Carlton ethos into employees at scale, and building operational systems that kept everyone accountable to the vision, mission, and purpose. All of this happened before digital technology, videos, learning management systems, and mobile training platforms. Remarkable. (To learn more about how Horst did it, check out his best-selling new book, Excellence Wins. You also can check out his tell-all video series on NeedToLead.com.) HOW TO SCALE CULTURE If you are like other great business leaders, the reason scaling culture isn't currently happening for you is:
Your business is demanding more from you than you can handle;
You're not quite sure how to get started.
If that feels accurate, there's hope. Here's how we've helped our clients scale their culture: STEP ONE We've adapted a framework that helps create clarity around purpose, values, strategic initiatives, and accountability. Once you, as the leader are clear on what to do, the stage is set to help your team(s) become clear through a one-or-two-page organizational playbook. The playbook articulates the elements that create your culture. This is powerful because in times of growing complexity, your playbook creates simplicity. STEP TWO Once you are clear on who you are and where you're going, it's time to begin communicating that at scale. Most business owners choose to use video to scale their personal voice, stories, and other emphasis areas. They capture their purpose, vision, and values on videos that will be shown (when needed) to employees new to the organization, or as refreshers for all employees. This is where many leaders stop short. STEP THREE The best companies systemize their culture into a powerful, well-crafted first day experience. This was the Ritz-Carlton's secret weapon. Horst knew that an employee's first day of work is one of the most emotional days of their life. He used that opportunity wisely. A first day experience is exactly that: the events, conversations, programs that happen on an employee's first day of work. The purpose of this is for leaders to communicate the vision, purpose, culture FIRST, and then later, job function and responsibilities. Culture should be taught well before job function. It's imperative that new employees connect with your purpose and their transcendent meaning to your business before they learn what they will do functionally. STEP FOUR Finally (for brevity here), scaling culture requires systematic, daily reminders. A lot of our clients have employees who work in shifts. Because of that, they create five-minute standup meetings before every shift begins to review one of the cultural values, key behaviors, or service standards. The daily reminders keep your culture top-of-mind, while allowing your leaders to re-challenge employees to focus on the spirit that makes your business special at the beginning of every shift. WHAT NOW? If you take these four steps, and commit the energy to execute them well, your culture is set for scale. Imagine what would happen if your leaders could carry your vision without you being there. Imagine how much better you will sleep knowing your culture scaled beyond you. Many business owners may struggle to tackle this type of process on their own. That's why Arch + Tower has created systems and processes to help lead you through it. If you'd like another tool we use to help elevate the elements of customer experience, employee experience, and operational excellence, download our 14-Point Checklist.
Chris Green is a founding partner in Arch + Tower, which helps companies find unique success by creating world-class customer experiences through meaningful employee experiences. For more assistance in creating employee or customer experiences that leverage this and other insights, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.